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  • Dr. Ali Ertuerk looks at a transparent human brain at his laboratory in Munich.

    Dr. Ali Ertuerk looks at a transparent human brain at his laboratory in Munich. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 April 2019

Researchers print the structure of the organ based on the provided schema before they fill the 3D printer with stem cells that act as "ink" which are then implanted in the appropriate position to make the organ function.

German researchers have developed transparent human organs, using state-of-the-art technology that could lead to three-dimensional printing of organs for transplants.

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Scientists at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, led by Turkish doctor Ali Erturk, advanced a technique that uses a solvent to produce organs such as the brain and kidneys, but transparent. The organ is scanned by lasers in a microscope that enables researchers to capture the complete structure, including the blood vessels and each cell in its distinct location.

Researchers then print the structure of the organ based on the provided schema before they fill the 3D printer with stem cells that act as "ink" which are then implanted in the appropriate position to make the organ function.

While 3D printing is already universally used to produce parts for the medical industry, Erturk said the technique represents an advancement in the medical field.

So far, the bodies created in 3D printers lacked complete cellular structures because they were based on computed tomography images or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, Erturk explained.

"We can see where each cell is located in transparent human organs, and then we can replicate them exactly, using 3D bioprinting technology to create a real functional organ," he said.

"I believe that now, for the first time, we are much closer to a real human organ," he added. The Erturk team plans to start with the production of a bio-printed pancreas in the next two to three years and then a kidney within five to six years.

Researchers will conduct the first test to see if animals can survive on bio-printed organs and clinical trials could begin within five to 10 years.

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